Monday, October 3, 2016

An honest buck

So, way, way back over a year or so ago, back when Jake was still looking for work, I was hustling around for Uber fares and was looking for ways to earn money that wouldn't add too much to my stress level, I signed up for Carvertise. It's a program in which a company pays you to put their advertising on your car, and then you drive just as you usually would (you get to review the company before allowing them to put their ad on your car). After I signed up, I got an email saying they would contact me if they were doing a campaign in my area, and that was all I heard from them for a while. I figured that in our big town/small city, opportunities would be scarce.

Meanwhile, Jake got a job, we stopped driving for Uber, had Catherine's crises, and had a baby. My opportunities for adding to the family income were reduced to the occasional Fiverr gig and a few book sales. Not that that's horrible - Jake is a good provider - but sometimes it's nice to have money to save for extras for the kids, or to contribute to the savings for closing costs on a different house.

Then a week ago, I got an email that Integrity Staffing wanted to run a car campaign in my area, and they would be paying $200 for 2 months of ad time. The vinyl wrap apparently is guaranteed to come off of factory finish very clean, and it's even supposed to protect the finish from scratches.

So, I figured - why not? I've made less doing a lot more. And it's not like I'm advertising Joe's Topless Bar - it's Integrity Staffing. And I'll have a 2 month spell where I won't lose the van in the parking lot!  :)

If you have a 2005 car or newer with factory original paint, drive a good bit daily, and can handle looking a little goofy for a few months, you're a good candidate for this program.  (If you do sign up because of me, could you let me know? They offer referral bonuses.) If you're an Uber or Lyft driver, this is a great way to boost your income a bit without having to add that extra run. After all, you have to sleep sometime! No guarantees that they'll get to you quickly, but if you live in or near a big city you'll have a better shot at getting tapped for a campaign.

One suggestion - if you do this, that money would be best treated as nice little extra to put toward a goal. Don't blow it on a night out or a bunch of junk, put it toward paying down a bill or toward saving for emergencies or something special. After all, you don't want to be a rolling billboard for months on end to pay for something you'll barely remember. ;) Of course, if this money pays for a very special evening out, clothes that FIT, or a family trip, you won't hear a peep from me - it's good to treat yourself well!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mental Health

OK, I got permission to write about this from my daughter.

Remember how many posts back I mentioned that we had been dealing with some heavy stuff that I couldn't write about just yet? This is it. 
Over the last year, Catherine has been dealing with depression. Suicidal thoughts. Self harm and thoughts of self harm. We've been doing what it takes to get her well again, including inpatient hospital stays, outpatient daily therapy, and a therapy program that meets with the family 3x weekly. She's on medication. We've added nutritional supplements. She has a safety plan. We do what it takes.
The first week of September, something happened that shook us all up a bit. I'm finally at a place where I can write about it without cursing like a sailor.
She had been dealing with signs that her body had adapted to her medication dose, and was experiencing another depression slide. (Those of you who have had depression know what I mean.) I called her psychiatrist's office and begged them to move up her med check appointment, and they were able to get her in sooner, but it was still a week away. Meanwhile I added niacin, b-complex, and vitamin D to her daily regimen, after checking to make sure that there were no interactions and we wouldn't overdose on vitamins. I wanted to make sure that she didn't have to go inpatient when a simple med adjustment might do the trick - I was willing to try vitamins to boost her along. Heck, I was willing to load her down with Mt Dew and chocolate if it helped, but vitamins seemed healthier.
It helped. Noticeably so. In fact, I was starting to second-guess taking her to the psych, since she was doing so much better. But I figured it would seem odd if I had begged for an earlier appt and not taken her in, so we went.
The doctor was horrified that we were giving her niacin, b-complex, and vitamin D. She fretted that Catherine would develop liver problems, and that there would be interactions with the lexapro. I had checked, it would take a much heavier dose than she was taking before liver damage would be a problem. But fine, doctors get nervous about things like that. It's their job to be cautious.
Then she spoke with Catherine for 10 minutes, and called me in to inform me that in her opinion, Catherine needed to go into the hospital immediately. Why? She had had self harm thoughts the night before. Not suicidal thoughts, and she did not self harm. But the doctor insisted that the self harm thoughts were essentially suicidal thoughts, and she would not be safe anywhere but in the hospital. She also mentioned that she thought Lithium would be the next step in medication.
I was shocked. I explained that with her therapy team, we had successfully helped her stay safe outside the hospital during a previous crisis that was much more obvious than this. The doctor didn't want to hear it. I asked if her therapy team could be called. The doctor told me that if I did that, and they second-guessed her determination that Catherine needed to be in the hospital, she would have a serious problem with that. No direct statements were made, but I started getting nervous that this doctor would do things to make sure that I checked Catherine in, or would see to it that she was removed from the house. Maybe those fears were unfounded, but I was very much on edge. I was unable to get a hold of my husband, because he was at work - had he been there with me, I think this would have turned out differently.
I was finally bullied into agreeing to the admission. I knew the staff at this hospital, and I knew that if Catherine needed the help, they would take care of her, but they wouldn't keep her or medicate her with anything too heavy if it wasn't needed. That was Wednesday the 7th.
On Thursday, we went in to talk with the hospital doctor, nurses, etc, and brought our therapy team. Everyone seemed baffled as to why Catherine had been admitted in the first place. She was stable, in fairly good spirits, and completely lucid. The doctor there agreed that she could go home on Friday, before the requisite 72 hours had even passed. He agreed that Lithium was far too heavy, and that the current dose of Lexapro with our vitamin regimen would be fine. (Of course, if it weren't we were encouraged to come back via the ER if needed.) The therapy team helped us score an appointment with a highly recommended child psych in the next two months.
We were very lucky. There are other hospitals that are known for over-medicating patients. There are other doctors that are not as understanding as the hospital doctor. Many families do not have the therapy team in place that we do. Catherine could still be in there, over-medicated, unheard, trapped. We would be at the mercy of the system. All thanks to the abrupt decision of a doctor who didn't want to listen to the possibility that Catherine could be feeling better, and that she could be safe at home.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Welcome, Baby Charlotte! (Birth Story!)

Hi all!

I obviously haven't posted in a while, mainly because my few remaining brain cells were occupied by thinking about the impending birth, which happened on Friday!

We had a lot going on in the past two weeks, and every time I thought about going into labor everything in me said "not yet! no time!". But Daniel's birthday was on Thursday, we managed to have a small family party with cake that night, and that was the last thing I had planned for a few days. Thursday was also my official due date, and if I went too much longer my OB/midwife practice was going to start putting the pressure on to induce.

So I did something smart - I hired a doula to help during the birth. (A doula provides non-medical support to the mother during labor.) My doula is also a homebirth midwife, so she had loads of knowledge to share, but she only attended my birth in a doula capacity since she didn't have delivery privileges at my hospital. Anyway, she suggested castor oil to get labor going - she even calls it "midwives Pitocin"! And the midwife at my practice mentioned that if I wanted to use castor oil, she had heard that if you take an ounce or two and cook scrambled eggs with it, the protein in the eggs binds with the oil and limits the diarrhea effect while still stimulating contractions. Sold!

So Friday morning I cooked my eggs with one ounce of castor oil, plus some peppers and onions for good measure. And not too long after, I started feeling some painless contractions coming at about 8 - 10 minutes apart. I let my husband know, and he asked if he needed to come home yet. I told him no, nothing serious was happening yet, and he only works 30 minutes away - I figured when things got real, I'd get him to come home. I also texted the doula and let her know that something might be happening later that day, so not to make any crazy plans. Meanwhile I had roofers climbing all over our house, patching up a leak that had come up during a heavy rainstorm the previous week.

Around 1:00 I was starting to feel like it would be nice to not have to worry about the kids, since Tristan in particular kept trying to cuddle with me and when he put pressure on my belly, it made the contractions hurt more. I called my MIL, and she said she'd take the kids swimming! Then she asked the million dollar question - what time should she bring them back? Uh... I don't know! It could be THE DAY, after all, but I've had a history of false labors before - I just wasn't sure. So she said she'd just keep them, feed them dinner, and bring them home around bedtime whether we were there or not - if we were at the hospital, she'd just camp on the couch.

So once the kids were gone, I could feel the contractions take on more of a rhythm, but still they didn't really hurt. Jake kept checking with me, but I told him to just come home at the regular time (around 5). Funny, though - once he got home and the roofers were gone, suddenly the contractions started to mean business. Jake got a quick shower, and while he was in there I let the doula know that the contractions were starting to feel "real", like this was not going to peter out and leave me hanging.

After Jake got out of the shower, I got NAILED by a REAL contraction. I told him it was time to head to the hospital, which thankfully is a 10 - 15 minute drive from our house. The doula was about an hour away, so she'd join us at the hospital.

Jake parked the car, and I tried to walk to the entrance - I got about halfway and had to stop for a contraction, so a passer-by ran to grab us a wheelchair. Then as we headed in, one of the OBs who was just leaving spotted us, and said "Are you in labor? Don't go to the ER - follow me." and buzzed us into the maternity wing, telling them not to bother with triage - just to set me up in a labor room. Whew!

I was settled in, checked, (3 - 4 cm) by 7 PM and told to relax and do what I needed to do. My doula showed up after a bit and ran a bath in the jacuzzi tub, but I was being monitored and they were trying to start an IV, so I didn't get in. The IV blew out twice, so the nurses decided to call the phlebotomy team to place it - meanwhile my contractions were getting harder and harder to get through. I was standing and swaying, clutching Jake for all I was worth, when my water broke at the end of a contraction. Wow! My water had never broken like that before - it had always either broken while pushing or had to be broken to make labor progress.

After that I felt like I needed to be on my hands and knees. There was no logic that I remember, I just needed that position. The nurses wanted to put the monitors back on me, but I kept shaking my head because I'd have to lay down, so the awesome midwife in charge said "just get out the Doppler hand-held monitor". (Love those midwives.) During all this, Jake and my doula were helping, rubbing my back, holding me up, and making sure that I never felt alone.

It didn't feel much longer when I turned to the doula and told her I was going to need to push. That's when the phlebotomy team arrived! I growled "Tell them to BUG OFF." and got back to work - let me just say that a hands-and-knees delivery is MUCH easier than delivering on my back! Two very long pushes later, Charlotte was out and crying!

They passed her between my legs so I could see her, helped me roll over and rest, and got her snuggled onto my chest. Then I realized what time it was - just shy of 9 PM, meaning the really noticeable part of labor was less than 4 hours long! My shortest previous labor was 10 hours! She was 7lbs, 10 oz and 19 1/2 inches long (already 7 lbs 13 oz and 21 inches as of day 5), so the gestational diabetes didn't have a negative affect on her thanks to good sugar control. My doula told me that the last birth she attended was 36 hours, and births like mine spoiled her!

I'm feeling really great physically - I've never felt this good this soon after a birth. In fact, it's causing me some trouble, since I want to get up and do things, and then I realize later that I shouldn't be doing quite so much! The kids love Charlotte, and there's a constant rivalry about who gets to hold her. Even Tristan insists that he needs to hold "his baby", and cuddles and kisses her as much as he can.

I'm going to try to rest up during this week, since Jake has to go back to work on the 29th. After that I have to rely on Catherine and Daniel for my help, and while they're willing, I don't want to overload them.

Birth is so tiring.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Folding bike!

I've wanted a folding bike for a while. It's fairly common, I think, among cargo bike lovers to also want a bike that you can take anywhere (including in the cargo bike itself). So I was doing some freelance gigs and writing, saving my money, and watching for a good deal.

The thing about folding bikes is that good ones tend to cost a good amount of money. For example, a Brompton  like the one above (quite possibly the sexiest folding bike on the market) will run a cool $1800 with the options that I would want on it.

A Dahon, also an excellent folding bike company, was a more reasonable option, but new they cost $700 and up. I had my eyes open for a used one, but many were single or 3 speeds, 30 years old, and in iffy condition for $100 - $150... or were newer, but 100 miles away and were priced somewhat out of my budget at $350 - $500.

So I had made up my mind to order a nice, entry-level folding bike from Citizen Bikes.

This model was the one I was thinking of - for only $300 plus $30 shipping, I could have a 26 lb alloy folding bike with 6 speeds. Pretty cool.

THEN. One amazing day (Monday) I decided to check craigslist yet again, just to see if there was anything new.

A scant mile away from my house was a used Dahon, maybe 6 - 8 years old, for $75. The owner said a friend had given it to him about 5 years ago, and the first time he had unfolded it was to take pictures for craigslist. I couldn't see any gears in the picture, so I figured it was probably a 3 speed internal hub. The owner didn't know enough about it to tell me, but he said he thought it was a 3 speed. At that price, I was willing to drop a few speeds - I asked if I could come take a look. After all, it's not like it was far at all.

Oh. Man. It wasn't a 3 speed. It was an internal EIGHT speed with a chain guard, an aluminum frame, and a hub dynamo light on the front! The rear light still had the 5 year old batteries in it, so it was sadly corroded out, but the (flat) tires took and held air like they had been waiting for the opportunity! The brakes didn't even need to be adjusted, though the handlebars did. It had a spring-loaded, two-footed kickstand, perfect for holding the bike up either folded or unfolded. I hopped on, rode for about 15 feet, and realized that if I didn't put money in that guy's hand and get the bike in my car NOW, someone else would... or he would figure out what the bike was really worth and raise the price! I paid him the $75 and waltzed home!


I wanted to update this before, but the website wouldn't let me - now I know it was because there was more to add to the story!

So I bought the super sweet aluminum Dahon, but there was only one thing that I would have changed - it had 24" tires. Obviously on a deal like this, it wasn't going to stop me from buying and enjoying the bike, but it would have been nice to have a bike that folded up a little smaller.

2 days later, I was still flying high and feeling smug about that find, when my husband turned to me and said "There's another Dahon for sale 30 minutes from here - a 7 speed with 16" wheels for $80. ".

I stared for a second and said "My freelance account can cover that."

So now we have two folding Dahons!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Potty training (at last!)

I have to say, I thought I'd have this done a long time ago. I did Elimination Communication with Tristan from when he was about 4 months old, and was inordinately proud that I almost never had to change a poopy diaper... up until he started eating more solids than breastmilk and became more mobile at the same time. The combination of the firmer stools with the knowledge that he could take off at any time worked against me, and EC went by the wayside.

Meanwhile, I've bought piles of underwear, training pants, and various potties, all hoping to get the magic combo that would make him use the potty. And you know what? None of it helped.

What finally helped was a book called "Oh Crap! Potty Training", by Jamie Glowacki. I'd heard great things about this book, but I resisted buying it for ages. By the time I broke down and bought it, Tristan was well past her "ideal training window" age between 20 and 30 months old, but her principles still worked - she has sections in the book about how to potty train older kids, dealing with special circumstances, and how to deal with day care.

For me, the big mental shifts were not ASKING Tristan if he had to go potty, but telling him very matter-of-fact-ly that it was time to go sit on the potty for a minute. And the other was asking myself "What is your child capable of?" - he can run, climb, talk rings around people, and likes being a big helper. Of course he was capable of understanding that poop and pee go in the potty, and doing it himself! And because I have a little guy who loves to mess with me, none of the potties or inserts would do for him - he had to sit on the REAL toilet to do his stuff. Because of COURSE he would do that. <eyeroll>

The other quirk is that to do this for real, you have to commit. Clear the schedule, stay home for a few days, and for the first few days the trainee is supposed to be bare-bottomed so you can see what little body clues they give you before they go. That was old hat for me, since we had done the EC thing before, so we pretty much skipped to step 2, commando in pants. Yeah. None of those fancy training pants I've been so excited about, no undies. Just pants. The reason? Underwear and trainers feel snug around the butt, just like a diaper. There's no motivation to go, because it feels about the same as a diaper. Commando feels a lot more gross to a little kid - the poop and pee slides down the leg, and... ewwww. Much more motivating. (It should go without saying, but I will anyway - Pull-Ups do not work - they are diapers that slide a little easier, not a potty training aid. They must be ditched if you're using disposables and potty training - the only exceptions are nap and bedtimes.)

The whole potty continuum goes from clueless to "I peed" to "I'm peeing" to "I'm about to pee!". Tristan had been telling me for the past few weeks when his diaper was wet, so I knew he was very close here - it can take a lot longer than this for some kids. We're on day 5 of training, and we've had a few mishaps - a poop on the floor while I was still in the shower, another in a pair of very loose waterproof training pants (we had to go to an appointment, and I wasn't confident). But today and yesterday he was dry all his waking hours! and today he even got himself onto the potty before I could get there, and did a great poop all by himself! Last night was funny as we were trying to get settled for bed and he was already in his cloth diaper, he sat up in bed and said "You gotta be kidding me - I gotta go again!". Sure enough, he held it until we got to the potty.

At this stage, the only thing I'm thinking we need is a pair or three of Super Undies Bedwetter pants. Daniel has used them with a great deal of success, they're very well made and pull up and down easily, and unlike the rest of the training pants I have around, they'll stand up to a whole night of use. And I won't have to worry if I have enough cloth diapers between the new baby (her name will be Charlotte Elizabeth) and Tristan - what a relief!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Politics and other options

I'm not a very political person. I've been waiting this primary season out, hoping it would all blow over. But here it is - Trump is the nominee (or as good as) for the Republican Party, and it looks like Hillary will likely take the Democratic nomination.

I refuse to vote for either of them.

That doesn't mean I won't be voting.

It's funny how we can get so sucked into the either/or mentality - and the media doesn't do anything to help us come up with other ideas, either.

But I'm a person who looks for other options. Huggies, Pampers, or Luvs? How about cloth? Enfamil or Similac? How about breastmilk? Take the car downtown? Why not get the bike set up to ride with the kids?

So when I'm told that it's a Trump/Hillary race, I say "What about the Libertarian candidate?" Gary Johnson actually seems like a reasonable candidate. Of course, I know that the last third party candidate who made a splash (Ross Perot) didn't get a single electoral vote, but he wasn't up against such disliked candidates as these two. I have hope.

What's more, I'm a dreamer. I know people aren't going to drop disposables for cloth or switch to bike riding tomorrow, and the two party system is deeply ingrained. But I can choose where my vote will go, and as a matter of principle it will not go to either of the two big candidates.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Living life by the numbers, and a recipe

So, last time I mentioned that I'd have to start daily blood sugar testing for gestational diabetes. I went off to diabetic education, which actually helped me a lot. I was given some guidelines on what foods to eat. (Thankfully I may not have to continue all this later after the baby comes, but my risk for type 2 diabetes is now higher.)

Essentially, I'm limited to 30 grams of carbohydrates for breakfast, 15 - 20 for snacks, and 40 - 50 for lunch and dinner. I test my blood sugar when I wake up, and then an hour after each meal. (Thankfully the little lancet I use to draw my blood is so tiny it barely hurts. I've done worse with a sheet of paper or a loose staple.) My numbers need to be below 95 first thing in the morning, and below 140 an hour after eating. I'm encouraged to continue exercising in whatever form I can manage, and to take a little walk if my sugar reads high.

Now, the human body is an amazing thing. I could start the day with the same reading, eat the same breakfast all week (which I did - eggs and two slices of gluten free toast, 30 grams of carbs exactly), and come up with radically different readings based on my stress level alone. If I sat down for a cuddle with Tristan after breakfast, my sugar level might be only 115 an hour after my eggs. If I ate my eggs and hopped in the car and drove for an hour in stressful conditions (happened) my sugar level might be 155! How is that fair?

Not to mention we've been continuing to deal with very heavy, stressful, difficult problems around here, and it came to a head the same week I got my monitor and had to start testing. I begged my doctor not to hold that week's numbers against me, since we were barely home and my stress level was through the roof.

I got tired very quickly of eggs for breakfast - anyone who's done a low-carb diet for long will understand - so I started seeking out high fiber, low carb, gluten free baked good recipes. Who knew that would be so tough?  ;)  Actually, it was pretty simple - baking with almond and coconut flours is pretty easy, and stevia is an acceptable sweetener. The trick is the consistency - I made some excellent, high protein, high fiber, low carb, gluten free blueberry muffins. The only issue is that they don't hold together as well as "standard" muffins. Maybe they need more eggs? But they taste SO good, and I don't feel like I'm gagging down dry, rubbery, or greasy food to fuel my body. And unlike other gluten free muffins, I don't eat one and say "hmm, maybe I'd better eat something... oh yeah" - these are pretty satisfying.

I used this recipe if anyone wants to try it!

  • 1 1/2 cups of almond flour, 1 1/2 cups coconut flour (or 3 cups almond flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups water (less if using only almond flour)
  • Sweetener to taste -- I used 20 packets of stevia (not the baking mix, the straight stevia. The baking mix is half sugar and will double the carb count)
1) Preheat oven to 350 F.

2) Grease your muffin tins. This recipe makes 2 dozen, because with my family making less is just a waste of time. I freeze some to make sure I have breakfast all week.

3) Mix dry ingredients together well.

4) Add wet ingredients and mix thoroughly (You don't want strings of egg white in there and you don't have to worry about "tunnels" when you are using almond meal).

5) Put in muffin tins (about 1/2 to 2/3 full) and bake for about 25 minutes or until firm and golden brown. They don't rise a whole lot, so don't worry if they seem small.

Variations: Add 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries for blueberry muffins.

3 grams effective carbohydrate plus 2 grams fiber, 6 grams protein, and 185 calories per muffin. It's less carbs if you use only almond flour, but coconut flour is slightly cheaper, so I'm trying to make it stretch. If you use only almond flour, you can use less water - coconut flour is very thirsty and absorbs a lot of liquid.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sugar is sweet...

And very bad for me, apparently.

First, yeah, I haven't posted very frequently. I think I've been saying all I had to say on my personal facebook page, and then I'm all "wrote out".

So, here's what's going on. When I started this pregnancy, I was already taking 2000 mg of Metformin, a medicine that helps me regulate my insulin levels and my blood sugar. Insulin is a hormone, and when it gets out of whack, it throws off all the other hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Without that medication, my body gets so messed up that I miss periods and can't get pregnant, and it could be dicey for me STAYING pregnant.

During the first few months, I noticed my blood sugar was dropping like a stone out of nowhere. Fairly common in early pregnancy, but it seemed extra severe this time around, so I called my doctor and asked if I could back down my dose to 1500 mg. They agreed that sounded like a good idea. In fact, they told me to go as far as 1000 mg, but my energy levels crashed then, so 1500 was where I stayed.

Fast forward to last week. I've been getting progressively more tired, and found myself snacking to boost my energy, which is what I used to do before Metformin, but I attributed it to the advancing pregnancy. Last week was the 1 hour glucose screening, and I flunked it by 30 points.  :( 

Hang on - I've been at a lower dose this whole time! I've gained weight, and the hormone levels have shifted. Maybe it's time to increase my dose back to 2000 mg!

My doctor agreed and increased it, but unfortunately with one failed test under my belt, I had to either go in for a FASTING 3 hour glucose challenge (something I did when being diagnosed for PCOS, and it set me up on a sugar spike/crash cycle that left me sick for 2 days) OR go to diabetic education, learn to count my carbs and keep a food diary, and test my sugar levels 4 times a day.

Guess who's going to have to get over her aversion to poking her finger! If I can demonstrate that my sugar levels are under control for a few weeks, I might get to test less frequently. Whoo hoo.

For now, I still get to avoid insulin injections, so I've got that going for me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Consignment sales, leftover wizardry, and fix-ups

If you don't have kids consignment sales in your area, I'm so sorry. Around here in the fall and spring, we get these 2 -3 day monstrous sales of kids clothing, baby gear, toys, books, games, and maternity goodies. The way they work is people sign up ahead of time to participate, tag their own clothes with prices they set, and if they sell they get as much as a 70% cut of the price. That's a better deal than most consignment stores can offer, which makes these sales really popular.

I stopped at one of the first sales of the season (The Keystone Moms of Multiples sale) this past weekend, and got a light jacket for Tristan, a baby bouncy seat, a very nice black diaper bag that doubles as a bike pannier bag, and a Potette potty that fits in any diaper bag, all for $19! I'm honestly the most excited about the diaper bag - it's styled like a messenger bag, has all the pockets and insulated spots you'd expect from a diaper bag, and has the straps to attach to the back rack of a bike! (Or a stroller handle, I guess.) It's not like I don't have the room in the box bike, but the diaper bag has a tendency to slide around, and it's nice to keep that space free for the kids and other cargo. As for the folding potty, I've been wanting one of them for ages because they double as a portable seat for over a big toilet. The only downside is this one came with disposable bags to use when it's in freestanding potty mode, and I'd really rather have the foldable silicone "bowl", which I'll have to order online.

On Monday night Jake roasted a whole chicken for dinner, and picked the carcass afterward for the leftovers. I wasn't really sure what to do with them, but I had a busy day yesterday and wound up tired and out of inspiration at dinner time. Rustling through my cupboards, I came across a soup "kit" with seasonings, rice and gluten free noodles - just add chicken, broth, and frozen peas! I had all those things, so I tossed it all in the pot and whipped up some gluten free garlic biscuits from my ever-handy Aldi GF baking mix. Dinner, no sweat. It matched the general appetite of the family, too - we weren't in the mood for anything very heavy.

After dinner we went to Dairy Queen - they were offering free ice cream cones! We did have to pay for Catie's and my treats, since we couldn't eat the cones, but dessert for $6.89 for a family of five wasn't too bad, and a nice treat. Then we swung by a used bookstore to use Catie's free birthday book coupon (it's a nice shop that way!).

As for fix-ups, I've been using a free curriculum for Daniel this year called  (not to be confused with the cyber charter program K12). I was pleased initially that the program tracked attendance and had weekly spelling lists, but other subjects have left Daniel and I cold. For example, history is usually "read this wikipedia page", math is "watch this demonstration video, then maybe do 5 problems" - not enough practice time on anything. So I was searching for some complementary activities for Daniel to do, and stumbled onto ! It's packed with printables, games, activities, and interactive models, for grades pre-K through 6th - much more fun, more interesting, and I was able to get some reading comprehension pages on history printed and worked on. That's been a weak point for Daniel, since he just breezes through the reading and says "I'm done!". Really? What did you just read about? Uhhhh....

I just wish I had checked into this earlier in the year - now we have to fight some learned laziness to get him working.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Baby bonanza!

I know it's been quiet here. Our family has been dealing with some heavy stuff that's not really mine to write about, and because it was heavy I haven't had any motivation to write about anything else... until today!

Yesterday my dear husband was scouting on craigslist (like you do) and found a nice looking lot of baby girl clothes in the right seasons. (Oh yeah, did I tell you all we're having a girl?) He contacted the guy (a stay-at-home-dad, whoo hoo!) and finagled a deal where we got four garbage bags worth of clothes, blankets and towels for $100.

Wow. we got all those clothes home and started the washing and sorting process, and found that we now most likely have enough for the new baby's first year! There might end up being a few holes in the wardrobe that we discover later on, but for now my nesting mama, what are we going to put the baby in worries are soothed. And what's more, I'm going down to a friends house tomorrow, and she has a batch of baby girl clothes she wants to pass on as well!

The funny thing - after we washed, sorted by size, and put everything in recently emptied bins, my husband was asking me "will we have room to store all this?". Heh. That's why I went so nuts with the cleaning and purging process last month, honey! This fits in all the space I just cleared, because I knew that we'd need the room soon. Foresight!

The weather here just turned beautiful this week - low to mid 70s all week - so I'm trying to wash one load of laundry and line dry it each day. Yes, i could go nuts and do several, but I'm trying to pace myself and rest. I'm barreling right into my third trimester, and I'm FEELING it. The second trimester was so easy I was thinking "wow, this is a breeze! I should do this more often!". Ha!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Saddle sore

Saturday was beautiful here - in the mid-50's and sunny - and I have a family membership to the local science museum that we got for Christmas. So with the science center being only 4.8 miles away according to Google, and our fair city charging for parking on Saturdays to try and alleviate bankruptcy, it was inevitable that we would HAVE to ride our bikes to the science center!

And truly, the ride was awesome. Catie and Daniel had no trouble at all with either leg of the ride, and Tristan was relaxing in the box bike, so he had no trouble either. I should have been fine with my electric assist, but  I was feeling wimpy - the ride was almost entirely flat - and I didn't want to go faster than the kids could ride. So I mostly pedaled, and I was fine all the way until we dismounted at home.

Pregnant joints are unstable in the best of circumstances, and my muscles weren't used to the exercise. When I woke up Sunday, my legs and rear end hurt so badly that the only way I managed was some Deep Blue muscle rub, reapplied several times through the day! Finally today (Tuesday) I was able to get a soak in Epsom salts, which cleared up the last of the pain. Ugh.

Lesson learned - when pedaling pregnant, don't feel guilty about using any advantage you can get!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Is it more wasteful to keep it or give it away?

It's Ash Wednesday, everyone! To my intense amusement, the Methodist church down the street offers drive-through ashes every year. Wow.

So, I've been doing a lot of purging in my clean up of the house, though in the last week since Jake has switched to an odd work shift everything has ground to a halt. (He's working 4:30 PM to 3 AM. We're all adjusting, but it stinks right now.)

My mom is an incredible purger, and not very sentimental at all about objects - I get most of my attitude about items from her. My MIL is rather different - she keeps many sentimental things that I would never think to do. For example, she sold an old conversion van that she loved many years ago, and kept the bills that the new owners paid her. (It didn't sell for much.) Never deposited them, never spent them, just kept them in a lock box, because they represented the van. So, a little different.

In the beginning of the KonMari cleanout, most of what I got rid of was sent straight to the thrift store, but after a bit my MIL asked if there were things I'd like her to sell at yard sales this summer. She does have several yard sales a year, and also takes things to the flea market, so instead of donating them I started sending them to her garage.

She's been a little surprised at the things that we've been sending her way - cake pans, a cheese slicer I never liked, some old decor that Jake decided he didn't like anymore, and several of the items have been ending up in her home to be used. I don't mind that at all - the idea is to get back the space in our home, not to sell stuff. But even though she doesn't say it directly, I often think she sees this as being wasteful on my part. I'm getting rid of perfectly good items that still have a lot of life left in them - that's the definition of waste, right?

I, however, feel like these items were going to waste in my house. I didn't like them, I didn't use them, and neither of those things were going to change, no matter how long I held onto them. So there they were, sitting there, not being used. When I took them out and sent them to the thrift store or my MILs, they had a chance at being used by someone who wanted them and would like them. To me, that seems like the LEAST wasteful thing I could do. I'm saving someone else money by letting them buy used, it's one less product that will be manufactured and bought new, and as a bonus, I have more room in my home! Yes, at one time I spent money to get them, but that's the way the world works. If I spent the money and I loved it, I'd have kept it. But since it doesn't work for me, I have to decide - what's more important to me? The fact that it once cost me $20, or the fact that I can't close the kitchen drawer when it's in there? To me, a drawer that closes is worth getting rid of a $20 gadget I never used, and sending to a home that will use and treasure it.

Tell me in the comments - what is wasteful to you? Getting rid of things, or keeping things you don't use?

Friday, January 29, 2016

When to DIY, when to hire

I married a very handy guy. Seriously - when it comes to carpentry, electrical problems, and basic plumbing, all I have to do is tell him there's a problem, and after some pounding and cursing, it's fixed.

But we all have weak points. Mine is replacing zippers. Jake's is finishing drywall - he can hang it, no problem. There's hardly a gap between the sheets when he's done. But taping, mudding/spackling, and sanding is a special kind of torture for both of us. We've done it before when we were getting the house ready to move into, and the results were pretty amateurish.

The new bedroom under the front porch has had drywall hung and ready for finishing for 2 months. Every time Jake even thinks about having to work on it, I see his stress level rise. So yesterday I started calling guys from craigslist that advertised themselves as drywall workers.

Our best quote (for a room using something less than 24 drywall panels) was $300, $350 if he had to use his own mud and supplies. Now that Jake is working again, it's not like we're rolling in cash, but at least we have positive cash flow. He's working between 40 - 50 hours a week, so when he's home he's tired - and in the next few weeks he'll be switching to 2nd shift when his orientation phase is over. $300 sounds cheap to have the project move forward again, when you consider the alternative is it just won't get done for a few more months.

Once the drywall is finished, my MIL has the primer and paint already purchased, and for some reason she ENJOYS painting. From there, we need to get carpet installed (another thing we always hire) and install light fixtures. Then we need to knock down a wall and erect another wall to cut down one bedroom into a bedroom and hallway to the new bedroom - if the drywall guy is good, we'll ask for his help then, too. Then a bit more carpet, a little ceiling tile work, and paint, and the downstairs will actually be DONE. I doubt this will be done before next Christmas, but a girl can hope, right?  :)

As a meme says, If a man says he'll do a project, he'll do it. You don't need to nag him about it every six months!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

KonMari coping strategy

OK, I'm through my clothing category (also books, most of paper, and working steadily through misc.), but I had some ideas that might help some people with starting the clothing category. After all, starting is hard, especially if the piles of clothes are as high as your bed. (Don't pretend you're not out there. I know all about laundry struggles!)

Get all the clothes together, both clean and dirty, and head to the laundromat. Yes, even if you have your own washer and dryer - I'll explain in a minute. If you have a large family, grab all the dirties and the clean clothes for whoever you're starting KonMari for - probably you at first. Make sure you pick a laundromat with a donation bin in the parking lot - most do have them.

Wash and dry everything, staggering the loads so you're not rushing to pull things out while you're still working on the last load. Take over one folding table, and begin sorting - things that don't fit, that don't feel good to wear, and generally don't spark joy, go straight outside to the donation bin. Fold and pack up the remaining clean clothes to take home.

Now, why would I tell you to spend the money to wash your clothes somewhere else when you have a perfectly good washer and dryer at home? Two big reasons. One, all the dirty clothes will get clean at once, making it a lot easier to see what you really have. Two, getting out of your home and into a clean environment can bring you clarity, allowing you to make decisions more easily. And if you're starting at a very cluttered point, you might not have a large enough clean space at home to spread everything out and make decisions about it.

Once you get everything home, I know you might be tired, but put it away immediately. As you put the clothes away, you may come across more things you forgot about in the drawers or closets. That's fine - you probably have enough clarity to deal with them by now - decide whether they stay or go, and put them away accordingly.

The other idea for getting started is more piecemeal. KonMari usually advises that you take ALL the clothes for the person you're working on, and dump them on the floor and sort all at once. For me, that's not so awful, since I maintain a small wardrobe. For people with a lot of clothes, that could be more than you can reasonably tackle in one day. In that case, get all your shirts and tops together and start there. If you still have a head of steam after sorting, folding and storing your tops, great! Move onto your bottoms. If not, those get done on your next tidying day.

I had one friend say she couldn't get motivated to start at all. It all looked like too much. So I suggested that she just open up her underwear drawer - after all, we all have ratty undies we don't really like. I told her to get rid of anything that was torn, stained, itchy, or rode up funny, buying a 6-pack of Hanes if all that meant she'd be short on undies. Fold, put in the drawer nicely, and admire it for a minute. See how that one corner of perfection makes you feel. She loved the idea! Once you've gotten a start, it becomes easier to, say, move onto the drawer with your bras or socks. Or shirts. Or pants! You build momentum the more tidying you do.

An important note - KonMari notes that sometimes you will experience "detox" symptoms after a good tidying session - that could include bowel trouble, skin breakouts, or allergy flare ups. I think the allergy symptoms are a reaction to the dust, but I'm familiar with digestive reactions to emotions! After a big tidying session, you will probably feel physically tired and in need of a break. Try to allow yourself a rest day after a tidying day. Drink lots of water and eat well, and minimize your physical activity if possible. Take a hot soak with epsom salts. And look at the progress you've made! It didn't get this way in one day - even KonMari says that while she wants you to do things in one go, it takes about 6 months for most people to finish KMing the whole house.

Just remember - if you don't start, you'll never finish! Start. Allow the beauty you're creating to carry you forward.

Stinky solutions!

Warning - personal hygiene post!

OK, when I was 18 I had a cyst in one underarm. No huge deal, it had to be lanced and drained, but the after effects have been challenging. The incision site would collect solid deodorant, allowing it to sit in a pocket under the skin and cause irritation.

Gross, right?

So I switched to gel and roll-on deodorants.

And then I started reading about how antiperspirants aren't that great for your health - deodorants are fine, but don't block the pores. And I started noticing how my underarms felt sticky and smothered when I used regular deodorant, like the skin couldn't breathe.

So I started making my own deodorant out of baking soda, cornstarch, coconut oil, and essential oils. And to be frank, it didn't work. It was messy, clumpy, and something about my body chemistry made the deodorant stink when I put it on.

So I didn't know what to do. I bought a salt-based scented roll-on, and that made me smell even weirder, but at least I didn't smell like B.O, so I used it and gagged every time I raised my arms. More often I just tried (and failed) to keep clean and non-stinky without deodorants, only to be called out on it by Jake when I'd go to hug him.

Finally, I broke down and bought the solid rock salt Crystal deodorant. I'd tried it many years ago and hadn't liked it, but I was using it like my standard deodorant, which you can't do with the Crystal. The way it works, you have to wash yourself well, then get the Crystal wet and rub it all over the underarm area where the stinky bacteria might live. (When I was young, I'd just notice that I wasn't smelling great, and apply. Doesn't work that way!) The salt kills off the bacteria so while you do sweat, it doesn't have that stench to it. I bought mine at CVS, but it's available just about anywhere. 

I've been trying it out for a few days, and according to my brave 10 year old boy who stuck his face right IN my armpit, I don't stink. I don't smell like something fancy, either - I just smell like me. My underarms don't itch or feel weird, my incision site is fine, and no stink.

Not bad. And the Crystal is supposed to last a full year of regular use - at $7 per rock, that's pretty thrifty! I hope it works as well in the heat of the summer!

Edited - I gave in and started using standard deodorant again - the salt crystal was letting me down mid-day, and I was starting to stink. I keep going back to it every few days, but I think my pregnant chemistry is doing me in here. I smelled weird on standard deodorant during the last pregnancy too - maybe it will work better after the baby comes.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Big Dig

In case you haven't heard, my area (Harrisburg, PA) just had a record setting blizzard yesterday. Seriously - the OFFICIAL number was something like 30.2 inches over 24 hours, and there were areas that had more than that.

Today was clear and sunny, and not too cold - perfect for finding our cars under that pile. And really, it could have been worse - it was a light, fluffy snow, not heavy, wet stuff. But the sheer volume was ridiculous. I kept looking out the windows on Saturday as the snow fell, chuckling quietly at the absurdity of it all. With this amount of snow, no one gets a free pass. Jake did most of the driveway himself, the big kids had the front sidewalk, and I helped wherever I could (even though Jake and our neighbors kept telling me to take it easy). Tristan was out playing all around us. The deep snow had the added benefit of making sure he stayed nearby, since he frankly couldn't get far!

This was from our front door - can you see our neighbors car?
Our van from the back deck.
My parents had it even worse - they were in the area that got a solid 3 feet of snow - but their neighbors finished their pavement first and came to the rescue with snowblowers.

Like I said, this is a new record setter - some of us locals like to talk about the blizzards of '93 or '96, both notable, but this is one that my own kids will look back on and say "you think THIS is deep? You should have seen Jonas in '16!"

We're all dug out now, and we never lost power. We had our wood stove burning all along, so we've avoided having to dig out the dryer vent by line drying by the fire. The only thing that has me worried is some weather forecasters are talking about another potential snow storm on Thursday night. One Big Dig in a week is plenty - two is just painful!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Five frugal things (theme borrowed from Non-Consumer Advocate)

Some of these things are obvious thrifty things, others take a little explanation about why they're thrifty. Either way, five thrifty things!

1) I tackled my kitchen in the decluttering process yesterday, and threw out some expired food and put a bunch of cookware in the yard sale stack. That cleared cabinet space so I could see and use the things that I actually enjoy, and made room so I could put my crock pot in a cabinet, rather than having it live year-round on the counter top!

2) Amazon was offering a limited time deal where you could send back your old model Kindle for credit. I had an older reading-only Kindle that worked, but the charge ran out quickly, so my husband bought me a new one for Christmas. I sent the old one in today, and if all goes well I'll have a $30 Amazon credit coming to me!

3) I returned my library books today, a day BEFORE they were due! We're supposed to have a blizzard hit tomorrow afternoon, so doing this now will save me a few dollars, considering the number of books I had to return. (I had already renewed them once, so it was time to send them back).

4) We went to see a group of homeschool friends today in a church hall this morning, and forgot to bring snacks. Rather than stop somewhere on the way home, we came home and ate lunch. Daniel is getting pretty good at cooking boxed mac-n-cheese!

5) Since it's been so cold lately, we've been using our wood stove to heat the whole house. I even dried 2 loads of laundry on racks in front of the fire, both getting the clothes dry and adding much needed humidity to the air.

What have you done that's thrifty lately?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Planning a tidying/decluttering day

Marie Kondo gives a lot of good specifics in her book, but there are a few things she didn't mention that I thought would be helpful to anyone planning a big clean up day.

First, before you even get started with the tidying, think of what you want to have for dinner that night. Pull out a frozen lasagna to defrost, pop some goodies in the crock pot, or plan to call the pizza dude, but get it figured out now. You WILL be tired (happy, but tired) at the end of a long day of cleaning, and for some reason the family will still want to be fed! If you have dinner planned (and better yet, already cooking in the crock pot), you'll feel very smart and resourceful!

Second, plan where your donations will go, and load the car as you fill each bag or box. It prevents second thoughts and having to carry huge loads all at once. If you're taking them to a consignment store, call ahead and make sure you can drop off items that day, and what their limits on items are. DON'T get hung up on how much you can sell the items for - their purpose was not to be resold when you bought them, it was to make your life easier and more pleasant. If they serve that purpose by leaving your house, then they've done their job. Any money you get out of that is just a bonus.

Third, if things haven't been moved for a while, get the vacuum out and set up the hose attachments. As you pick up dusty items, suck the dust off of them - it will prevent the dust getting into the air, and by extension, your nose, throat, and lungs. A high quality dust mask is a good idea too. Grab some good dust spray and cloths, or if your allergies act up really badly, splurge and get the throwaway Swiffer dusters. Those things saved my life (or at least my lungs) in my daughters room, since they grabbed the dust so easily and could be thrown away without ever even touching them. Are they a bit decadent for everyday cleaning? Sure! But for this heavy level of dust, they were so helpful. If you have a good air filter, run it before, during, and a while after your clean up session.

Fourth, if you CAN, see about doing big clean up days the day before trash pick up day. That way any actual trash pulled out (and there will be some) doesn't have to sit around most of the week. If you can't schedule it that way, try to find a spot where the trash can sit and not overflow.

Fifth, for large items, get them right onto freecycle or craigslist. If you're selling them, sell them at a low reasonable price to get them gone quickly. You don't want to have to re-list them even once - the idea is to keep only the things that bring joy to your life, so set yourself free from the stuff that no longer serves your purpose.

Hope those practical tips help you with your tidying sessions!